Football: Cole conjures up a tricky finish

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The Independent Online
Sheffield Wednesday. . . 0

Newcastle United. . . . .1

Cole 88

Attendance: 33,224

AFTER being so ruthlessly crushed by Manchester United, bruised Sheffield Wednesday egos were in desperate need of a restorative here. In the event, they were granted neither that nor even the satisfaction of providing a decent spectacle for a 33,000 crowd. And two minutes from the end came another kick in the teeth.

Newcastle's contribution to a hugely disappointing contest had been as tame as the home side's, but the talismanic qualities of Andy Cole again conjured up the decisive moment. The goal that settled matters was his 34th of the season.

The circumstances were controversial, but justice of a kind resulted from them. Robbie Elliott, the Newcastle substitute, pushed roughly in the face by Carlton Palmer moments earlier, advanced with composure out of defence and passed to Peter Beardsley, who then released Cole. The young striker, until then policed superbly by Des Walker and Andy Pearce, was able to steal a yard for the first time. When Pearce stretched out a leg to bring him down, the ensuing red card was inevitable.

But the punishment did not end there. Beardsley's free- kick, driven low from left to right, rebounded first off Wednesday's Gordon Watson, then Newcastle's Ruel Fox, sitting up invitingly for Cole to stab home.

'We did not deserve that,' Trevor Francis, the Wednesday manager, lamented. 'It was particularly hard on Andy, who had not made a mistake in 88 minutes up to then, and the punishment for the team was very severe. But I thought when Cole went down that a sending off was a distinct possibility and I have no complaints.'

His counterpart, Kevin Keegan, would be embarrassed to have taken three points, Francis suggested. One would doubt that, but he could not remember too much afterwards to indicate that Newcastle were deserving of them, none the less. Save for one sublime link with Fox, just before half-time, from which he should have scored, Beardsley was quiet, while little was seen of Fox's ability to run at defenders. Lee Clark was absent through illness, which might have explained why the spark one associates with Newcastle's game was missing, too.

Wednesday, deprived again by injury of David Hirst, were closest to scoring when Palmer hit the outside of a post with a 23rd-minute header. Palmer later wasted a chance to set up either Watson or Mark Bright by heading tamely at Pavel Srnicek, but Wednesday could also bemoan their luck. When Bright went past Alan Neilson on the right, with 13 minutes to go, he seemed certain to carve out a goal for Andy Sinton, only for his pass to deflect to safety off a defender's leg.

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